Most people plan holidays to Mombasa, Kenyan coast with a variety of fun activities in mind, from experiencing diverse Swahili and Mijikenda cultures to sampling the sweet tasting Swahili dishes to sightseeing in the many pre-historic sites in Kenyan coast like Fort Jesus. However, not many tourists who come to Mombasa play it safe and engage in these activities: some tourists who flock the coastal towns like Malindi,Watamu, Mtwapa, Diani, Lamu and Kilifi do so, to engage in sexual activity, often with prostitutes, which is common in some towns in the Kenyan coast
Notably, the clients involved in this illicit trade are both men and women tourists and locals who travel to enjoy this pleasure where their character would not be questioned. They never mind the legal age limits, they seem happy just doing what is restricted in their countries. Some reports reveal that there is a category of tourists who come to Kenya solely looking for virgins, driven by the myth that sex with a virgin could cure HIV/AIDS. Most of the tourists especially in kilifi are pensioners who are either divorced or seeking to rekindle their sexual lives by having sex with teenagers
According to experts, the tightened restriction in traditionally sex tourism Destinations like Thailand has pushed the trade to Mombasa, where dozens of flights from Europe to Moi international air port fuel its existence. They thrive on their social status and financial power to woo poorer, young boys and girls.
The driving force behind the flourishing sex tourism industry in the Kenyan coast is poverty. Poverty is still a huge problem among the locals and is one of the primary drivers of prostitution. The locals say that there is a myth perpetuated about white people, that they will come and rescue you from poverty, probably buy you a car or build a beautiful house for you. These arrangements, in reality, mean something much different for these young men and women than the fantasy they are selling. In fact, some are not prostitutes as such, but the mindset that rich “mzungus” will come and give them a piece of western life luxury is what drives them to prostitution
Almost all of these tourists both men and women are older people, in their 60s, while their targets are under aged girls and mostly young men in their twenties desperately poor willing to sell themselves to have enough food. They go dining at fine tourist class restaurants, then dancing and back to expensive beach hotel rooms overlooking the coast
The centre of this trade is Mtwapa, in Kilifi County just outside Mombasa which gets wild during the night. Dubbed as the “sin city”, Mtwapa is alive at night especially in wee hours with young women bickering, men preying on young girls, and loud music from multiple clubs announcing the dawning of party morning. Several bars and restaurants in Mtwapa are associated with prostitution. According to locals, Mtwapa is well known as a place to go to find a prostitute.
Within the C.B.D around Club Casablanca, like Mtwapa is another hot spot for sex Tourists. From as early as 10 pm it’s easier to find dozens of women and several girls, no older than 15 years dressed for sale on Moi Avenue heading to Casablanca Night Club. The club is highly frequented by European sun-seekers, seafarers, sailors and marines, whose vessels usually dock at Kilindini Harbor. The club is truly a 24-hour entertainment spot and always full of ladies with bleached skins, standing tall in heels and on extra large silver hoop earrings. It is easier also to identify them from far as many of them rock the modern crazy Mohawk hairstyle, hot pants and tops that reveal a belly-button ring
In Malindi and Watamu, Kilifi County, the situation is not different. Girls as young as 14 years old are currently being lured into private villas, large mansions, spas and hotels where they are sexually exploited with promises of riches and trips to Italy. Old Italian men with countless wrinkles are the most popular clients for these sex workers. Young girls are either recruited by agencies or forced into the trade by circumstances. These unscrupulous Kenyan agencies take advantage of the lax in anti-sex tourism laws to woo sex tourists from Europe and other destinations for sex holidays in the country .
Prostitution is technically illegal in Kenya, but club and resort owners look the other way. It’s often considered a part of the tourist experience.According to a report by End Child Prostitution in Kenya (ECPIK), more than 50,000 children are involved in Child Sex Tourism. This tragic and illegal exploitation of children continue to occur under the watch of society.
With the increased number of sex tourists, evidently, the Kenyan coast faces a child sex tourism crisis.The Government of Kenya in collaboration with the six coastal county governments, needs to address and put in place strict legislation that will restrict and curb this problem. All local and international travel agencies operating in the Kenyan coast should be consistently reviewed to protect children from sexual exploitation. The ministry of tourism should provide a leading role in curbing this vice through ratification of the international protocols on Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking while specifically addressing child prostitution and exploitation in The Children’s Act and providing harsh penalties for offenders.